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District voting: Those in power continue age-old oppressions
Tue, 03/11/2008 - 3:53pm
By: Letters to the ...
What should we tell our children about voting? How about telling them the truth about the struggle to uphold this vital element of democracy?
Voting in the United States has been a historically tough evolutionary battle toward justice, equality and political independence. However, if we just gloss over the subject and retain only a short-term perspective, voting appears almost a mundane task not worthy of involvement.
I wrote [recently] on the faux conservative movement in Fayette County with Rep. Matt Ramsey, who was elected himself in a Fayette County district vote, fighting any change to a voting system which includes three county voting districts based upon “militia districts” established in 1863.
His resistance also included trashing of the core conservative principle of direct representation and accountability to the local voters of a district, the most local form of government closest to the people.
For people not interested in being governed by a firm set of values and principles consistently moving toward protecting our rights and promoting less government intrusion, Rep. Ramsey’s positions might be of no concern.
Just two months ago then-candidate Ramsey said, “My candidacy is based on reform: reform of the budget process in the General Assembly, and reform of state agencies that often fail to respect the principle of local control. Local problems require local solutions, and I seek to empower our local officials to manage our community as they know best” (Letter from M. Ramsey, The Citizen, 11-28-07).
So far Rep. Ramsey has cosponsored a bill to spend budget surpluses and taken a divisive stand on keeping voting districts dating back to the Civil War while championing at-large voting and attempting to derail the most direct form of representation to the people — district voting.
Joining Rep. Ramsey in his non-conservative ideologically conflict-ridden journey is Peachtree City Mayor Harold Logsdon, who ran as a fiscal conservative promising tax reduction with the end result being annual tax increases with the highest rate of taxation and expenditures in the city’s history. We are not talking about the bedrock of conservatism here.
Before we even had a country, the colonists were complaining about taxation without representation. And in most people’s minds, representation included some form of voting.
Back at the inception of our country, voting was extremely limited. In fact, the Georgia Constitution in 1777 listed qualified voters as, “All white male inhabitants, of the age 21 years, and possessed in his own right of 10 pounds value, and liable to pay tax in this state, or being of any mechanic trade, and shall have been a resident six months in this state ...” That is pretty exclusive, and even they were not allowed to directly elect U.S. senators.
In 1869, a Republican-led Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prevented denial of voting rights (also known as “suffrage”) based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” However, if you were a woman in 1869 or under 21 years of age, you still did not count.
To put the preceding paragraph in context: the voting system Rep. Ramsey and Mayor Logsdon support of the three Fayette County districts dating back to 1863 was in place before minorities, women and adults under age 21 were allowed to vote.
I thought they campaigned on a theme of “change,” but they are actually pre-Fifteenth Amendment. This is true faux conservatism and the abandonment of individual liberty.
The Seventeenth Amendment in 1913 allowed us to have the popular election of U.S. senators.
It was not until 1919 that Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment, which prevented denial of voting rights based “on account of sex.”
Please, women of the community, do not let your daughters forget that outstanding women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton, along with thousands of “suffragettes,” battled fearlessly so your girls could have equal treatment under the law. This was a very rough road. Many in power set up obstacles along the way to gaining women’s eligibility to vote because, surprisingly, they wanted to keep the good old voting system that made our country great (Where have we heard that before?).
Even with the Fifteenth Amendment, many African-Americans were denied access to voting because of politicians who created poll taxes, literacy tests and other bureaucratic impediments in an attempt to keep the same old voting system in place. Southern blacks were harassed, intimidated and even suffered physical violence when attempting to register to vote.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 put an end to the obstacles African-Americans faced in the voting process. Many people of all races fought and some gave up their lives to ensure fairness in the voting system. It causes me great pain to see African-Americans of any political affiliation not vote. The bloody victory to equality in the voting process can be too easily forgotten.
It was not until 1971 that Congress passed the Twenty-sixth Amendment prohibiting the denial of voting to persons 18 and older based on age. The people demanded if you were old enough to die at war for your country, you were old enough to vote.
The historical lesson from our country is that certain people in power will try to oppress you for various reasons; and our liberty exists only because our people fight to preserve and uphold our freedom.
There were people like Matt Ramsey, Harold Logsdon and others in 1869, 1919 and 1965 who divisively claimed they would not allow the old inequitable system to yield, but justice and liberty won out.
There were people like Fayette Commissioner Herb Frady who deceitfully tried to sneak an unjust redistricting plan for a vote at an out-of-town county government retreat.
Come, young Republicans and young Democrats, this is your time to take a stand for extending liberty in our community as many have done before you. Organize and make your voices heard.
Who knows, one day we might even win the “right” as a people to elect our president.
Peachtree City (Fayette County), Ga.
[Brown served as mayor of Peachtree City from 2001 to 2005.]login to post comments